Tuesday, April 9, 2013

UPRHS Batch 2000: Time for some kamote again...

It started as a rumor: the Old Rural Building is going to be demolished soon. For those who aren’t from Elbi, it’s the Math Building, that haunted-looking structure in front to St. Therese Chapel. Our batch spent the first three years of our high school life wreaking havoc in this building, and just when we were about to inherit the much-coveted lobby when we became Seniors (an age-old Ruralite tradition), we were shipped off to some far-flung bukid then known as The New site. Urgh.

So, just before Eli, one of our seaman friends and the self-appointed lider-lideran of our barkada even way back, goes off a-sailing, we decided to have a photo shoot in the old site. So after loading up with beer (for the guys), juice, dynamite (that uber-hot cheese-filled jalapeno treat), sisig and liempo at Eli’s new ihawan (Wheeler's Elbi Grill, De Castro Cmpd, Lopez Ave. Batong Malake, Los Banos, Laguna, plug plug!), we went to the Old Rural at 1 AM!

In the middle of mugging it for the camera at the lobby and debating how we can sneak inside the premises (the guys wanted pictures in MPH and the Ipil room, which is the first room to your left upon entering), the guard approached us to tell us the rumor isn’t true. An Elbi landmark such as the Old UPRHS building will NOT be torn down daw. Wooh. Great. But anyway, since we were there, we had pics taken in front of the flagpole too. Tristan, another promotor of this early-morning trip and my co-head in our the planned 15th year reunion, took some random pics of the 2nd-floor rooms (which used to be Mancono, Molave and Mahogany) in hopes of finding something supernatural turning up in the photos later on.

Me and Chrys at the flagpole we spent some time being tied onto and pelted with flour and soy sauce as part of a school fair's "revenge booth." Kami na ang suki. 

We were known as the Millenium batch, the first batch to graduate from the new site (although thank God we had our ceremonies at the D.L. Umali Hall). During our move the summer of 1999, we had to "igib" flushing water from outside and bring it to the toilets each room had (parang grade school lang, wala pang common restrooms). There was mud mixed with decomposing leaves and animal poop everywhere. 

The UPRHS New Site. Trust me, it didn't look this great back then. Wish I had a picture.

Our canteen was a makeshift mesa resembling a turo-turo and our lunchmates were flies the size of dragonflies. The MPG or gym was built in the middle of our year and as a going away present to the school, our guys' barkada made like construction men and built the volleyball court from scratch, their punishment for being caught with booze during the senior trip to Ilocos.We dreaded doing PT (Physical Training) during the Citizen Army Training drill days on Saturdays because the ground was rocky and sandy and filled with sharp, broken pieces of shell and bottles and of course, the obligatory cow dung. 

We were denied of the upper lobby, especially since we bullied any lowerclassman who dared sat there. We flubbed leading the school song on one flag ceremony and had to endure a major lashing for not memorizing the song even the freshmen knew by heart. 

We sent home a class of lowerclassmen when, in our exuberance at having the dreaded Physics exam cancelled, instead of shouting "Walang exam!" some genius shouted "Walang pasok"! and kids started getting out the school and boarding the shuttle jeeps home. We incurred the ire of the faculty countless times for our katigasan ng ulo, kaangasan and kayabangan. 

We had a lot more and looking back at some of these mischief last night, we were amazed at our youthful naughtiness. I'm glad most of us (I can't say all eh haha!) outgrew these and became fine, upstanding (not to mention handsome and beautiful) citizens of the world. We became doctors, lawyers, teachers, businessmen, media people, graduate students, entrepreneurs, musicians, mothers, fathers, hardworking taxpayers, you name it. Our 10th year reunion was a blast and kudos to the organizers back then. I believe our yearbook was also finished without an official faculty in charge so my respect as well to the yearbook peeps. 

UP Rural High School Batch 2000 during our 10th year reunion last December 10, 2010.

So I really hope we can make that 15th year thingie happen. Batch 2000, I know we're used to reaching for those blasted stars with hardship, but let's make this easy and fun as well, yes? Make those calls, connect, suggest, volunteer, plan and strategize with us. See ya'll soon! Visit our batch's Facebook group (UPRHS 2000) for updates or just plain old kamustahan and chikahan. :)

Love - It Starts With Civility

My devo this morning gave me a good pause to think. God said in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” He exhorts us to “Do everything with love (1 Cor 16:14) and of course we all know the famous verses of how real love should be like in 1 Cor 13:4-7. (Our Daily Journey, RBC Ministries, 2012)

I remembered an instance when I was a fairly new Christian and were encountering various reactions (most of the violent, disbelieving kind) from friends who knew my wild past and were dismissing this change as “just another phase” for me.

An old friend was firing off one question after another about why I “coverted,” why the need to “force” other people in believing in our “movement” and others. I tried explaining it’s not about religion and struggled to illustrate it about having a personal relationship. He’s had a few drinks, but I know he is a sensible guy. Heck, he’s an intelligent guy gifted in conversations. But I felt he was attacking my inability to change because he knew my past so well and maybe didn’t think I can change, or need any religion to save me. And as I tried to lob back his arguments with bits from Scripture and my personal experience thus far, I ended up sounding very defensive and emotional. I mean, I cried on the spot.

That, I think was my ultimate mistake. I was arguing with him on the merit of defending myself. I was trying to justify my actions by seeking to find holes in his questioning and “misguided” thinking. I wasn’t trying to share the grace of God and the true meaning of the Cross to him out of  a noble desire to draw him near to the Lord nor out of genuine love for a fellow human being. I just wanted him to shut up. I was driven by a selfish, wrong motive.

Looking back now, I had prayed about that incident and that should similar situations come up, I hope God would be upon me and use my thoughts and words according to His will. I pray my heart would be clear of any erroneous or dishonest intention. I ask for the ability to be civil in discussion, especially to unbelievers, so that I may reflect not the flaws of our faith, but the power of Jesus in our lives.

Civility should never be mistaken for being “plastic” or fake friendliness. The former is about admitting you and the other parties have differences but you can discuss it calmly without resorting to petty arguments or mudslinging. Agree to disagree. The latter just buries the real issues beneath phony smiles and gestures. Opportunities for improvements are never discussed in the open so they are never given a chance to be resolved.

I had a friend that I had a gap a while back. For months after he hurt me, I completely ignored him. I felt vindicated and justified my actions by thinking, well at least hindi ako namamlastic. Only later did I realize I was not acting out of love. It was hard at first but when he approached me, instead of rebuffing him with harshness, I was civil. We didn't solve all our problems and we never got back to being the close friends we were before but it's better now. At least, we became friends again.

I hope we will also have the gift of discernment to see this on those people running for office this coming May elections. Times like these are always abounding in dirty politicking and smear campaigns between opposing parties.

In the past, I’ve been called “plastic” so many times if it happened now and I walked around Elbi or Muntinlupa, I would’ve been outlawed. Bawal ang plastik sa Los Banos at Muntinlupa. It was a very mean and unproductive quality I have that I truly regret and even now I call upon God’s grace everyday to help me be civil – not to be a phony – in my interactions with people I have disagreements with.

“Let’s make it our personal project to reveal God’s great love as we debate and discuss today’s issues with others.” ~ Roxanne Robbins (Our Daily Journey, RBC Ministries, 2012)

 * pictures grabbed from commonsenseatheism.com and www.wemakethefunny.com.  No copyright infringement intended. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

No More What If's

The movie One More Chance is famous for its quotable quotes. We all know that you-had-me-at-my-best tearjerker, for instance. But a while ago, when I caught the film for the nth time at Cinema One, one of Basha's lines earlier in the movie  caught my fancy (it's not verbatim because I forgot to take it down and Google just spewed off the usual lines):

"I don't want to keep wondering what if; I want to know what is."

Ganda. I'm sure anyone who's ever yearned about stepping out of their comfort zone, of wanting change in their lives, has uttered this line or some variation of it. 

Yeah, some changes are inevitable: puberty, hormones, wrinkles, getting older, death. Those are the inescapable changes life bring. But there are those kinds that actually require effort from us. Loving someone, following our dreams, turning a new leaf, forgiving someone, moving on - these require actions and decisions. More often than not, these aren't just results of our circumstances. It's a will issue. We know what to do or where we're going, but it's still our decision if we will go through it.So says Michael Jackson, if we want change, we gotta start with the man (or woman) in the mirror. 

At times we resort to using excuses to mask our fears, insecurities or inabilities. We say we're not ready when we're just afraid. We use the cliche we don't have the time because whatever or whoever it was that was asking for our time and attention just isn't important enough to us. It's not a matter of having time; it's about making the time. If it matters to us, we'll definitely make time. If not, then we're just playing until it starts getting too much of a responsibility and then we drop it just like that. 

Again, it's a decision. For instance, love. Loving someone is a decision, and you know what, so is moving on. Yeah, we might just wake up one morning and realize all the feeling is gone, but we actually decided beforehand to get to that point.

While some of us are innately brave, for some, it takes additional effort to muster the guts. So if it's asking too much for courage, then at least have respect. Respect yourself and the people around you. Sometimes playing too safe to avoid pain or hurting others can actually backfire; we end up hurting even more, and betraying the trust of those we care about.

I'm all for being cautious in decisions and guarding our hearts as well. But I also believe that sometimes, our well-laid plans get disrupted for good reasons. God is aligning our lives with His will, and it's all for the best. But following God's will doesn't give us license to hurt others or act like jerks. Instead, this knowledge should make us more humble, give us the confidence to be honest and trustworthy.

I once heard it said that the worst feeling in the world is that never-ending barrage of what-if's: regret. So yeah, maybe it's about time we start focusing on what is and what will be instead of the what if's that we can't bring back, yes?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Let Go and Live

I woke up early today and found this in my inbox. A great and inspiring read to start the vacay right. Kinda echoes what a lot of us have been feeling and thinking about in the last few months. I'm a huge believer of giving value to ourselves and not letting any other person or even our past define who we are. I super appreciate the friend who forwarded this.

*emphasis added by me

By Albert Einstein

Sometimes, in our relentless efforts to find the person we love, we fail to recognize and appreciate the people who love us. We miss out on so many beautiful things and simply because we allow ourselves to be enslaved by our own selfish concerns.

Go for the man of deeds and not for the man of words for you will find rewarding happiness not with the man you love, but the man who loves you more.

The best lovers are those capable of loving from a distance far enough to allow the person to grow, but never too far to feel the love deep with in your being.

To let go of someone doesn't mean you have to stop loving them, it only means that you allow that person to find his own happiness without expecting him to come back. Letting go is not just setting the other person free, but it is also setting yourself free from all the bitterness, hatred, and anger that you keep in your heart. Do not let the bitterness scare away your strength and weaken your faith, and never allow your pain to dishearten you, but rather let yourself grow with wisdom in bearing it.

You may find peace in just loving someone from a distance not expecting anything in return. But be careful, for this can sustain life but can never give enough room for us to grow. We can all survive with just beautiful memories of the past, but real peace and happiness come only with open acceptance of what reality is today. There comes a time in our lives when we chance upon someone so nice and beautiful and we just find ourselves getting so intensely attracted to that person. This feeling soon becomes a part of our everyday lives and eventually consumes our thoughts and actions. The sad part of it is when we begin to realize that this person feels nothing more for us than just a friendship. We start our desperate attempt to get noticed and be closer, but in the end our efforts are still unearned and we end up being sorry for ourselves.

You don't have to forget someone you love. What you need to learn is how to accept the verdict of reality without being bitter or sorry for yourself. Believe me, you would be better off giving that dedication and love to someone more deserving.

Don't let your heart run your life, be sensible and let your mind speak for itself. Listen not only to your feelings, but to reason as well.

Always remember that if you lose someone today, it means that someone better is coming tomorrow; if you lose love that doesn't mean that you failed in love. Cry if you have to, but make sure that the tears wash away the hurt and the bitterness that the past has left with you. Let go of yesterday and love will find its way back to you. And when it does, pray that it may be the love that will stay and last a lifetime.

Monday, March 18, 2013

UP Kong Mahal

The recent deaths of two young women - the suicide of the UPM student and the murder of an 11-year-old girl in our barangay - made me stop and think. 

I can't even comment on the issue of suicide, because, as it has been repeatedly said in the last few days, it is indeed a complex matter and we can't just point to a single reason why this happens. 

It just made me think of how I had taken for granted my own stay in UP. I graduated from UP Rural High School, which is the preparatory secondary school here in UPLB. Back then (1996), only 160 students were accepted every year (this has been cut down to 120 in the last few years, I believe, since they removed one section comprising of 30 students per year level). 

*Old Rural building in front of St. Therese Chapel (now the Math Building) where we spent Freshman-Junior year. We had to relocate to the new site for our Senior Year.

Our tuition back then was a little more than PHP 1000 per year, and for this we got some of the best teachers in the area, more freedom compared to other private high schools and more or less the confidence that we have a better chance of getting into a good college, preferably UP. I remembered that while I got decent grades (except Math and some sciences with numbers and all, which I managed to pass by mercy of my teachers and copying from my friends), I never really exerted much effort. I was busier with extra-curricular activities and typical teenage rebellion stuff like barkada, vices and cutting classes. I shudder when I think of Ging going to high school, and as early as now I am praying to God she doesn't end up like me, haha! 

Ruralites did have a rep of being mayabang, especially once they get into UP colleges. Since we were the high school counterpart of UPLB, we had a tendency to look down on other schools, and act all smug when, say, we had to read The Little Prince or Of Mice and Men in Humanities subjects and we'd go like, yeah, we read that in high school already. I'm not saying we're all like that; I'm speaking for myself and some people I would rather not name. I don't think most of us even took the UPCAT reviews the school offered the summer before senior year quite seriously. Most of us were just glad for some excuse to get allowance during the summer. 

*The new site in Paciano, Bay. We were the pioneer batch and the word 'rural" took on a whole new meaning for us. Barriotic talaga when we first came here!

I guess this confidence was the reason why I didn't bother to take any entrance exams from other colleges. That and that my mother was a UP employee, so I figured she and her friends can figure something out in case I got wait-listed or something. A lot of my high school friends were also kids of UP staff so we shared this feeling of dependence.

Thankfully (and now I attribute this to the sheer grace of God!), I passed the UPCAT and got into my college and course of choice. For the next four years, my tuition was PHP 45 per semester because of the Tuition Fee Exemption (TFE) granted to children of UP staff and employees. If I want to add another subject, it cost PHP 10. During my last two years, I would often resort to late reg and just do pre-rog to my instructors once classes start, instead of queuing for hours in the registration line. I paid PHP 50 for late fine. My two other sisters also went to UPRHS and UPLB. My eldest sister took Medicine in UP Manila, and my other sister is taking up her Masters in UPLB now (she's a UP employee now too; my mom retired two years ago). Nowadays, the cost of one unit would've been enough to put me through college for many, many years. While I got better grades in college (even landing in the honor roll and college scholar list a few times), I still lived a pretty laid back, partying lifestyle. I got pregnant during my second year but still managed to graduate only a semester after my peers. Looking back now, I never had to worry about paying my tuition, allowance, food or lodging; we lived right in campus. I hope my daughter will never have to experience that too, and will value her education much more than I did. I have such high regard for those students who study hard and work even harder to stay in school and not take any of these for granted.

*The familiar UP Los Banos signage upon entering the UP Gate

* Si Oble. Behind him is the Humanities building and my college org's fave hangout, the Hum Steps.

The other news is that of the young girl found dead two weeks after she went missing. She was found just a few villages from where I live! The jeepney-pedicab route that goes from the Animal Science area inside campus and plies the route of subdivisions around the campus perimeter (including our own village) is a familiar route me, Ging, Ige and my family have taken numerous times. It hit closer to home because Ging is also 11. The moment someone texted me the news and I saw it on the bus TV  as well, I immediately texted my mom and sister and asked them to hug my daughter and keep a close eye on her. My heart goes out to the victim's family. Losing a child is one of the greatest pain any parent can go through, I hate to even imagine how that feels.

UPLB has been in the news the last couple of years due to some recent crimes and deaths. I hope the local government will continually do something about these and not just while the issue is hot.

Let us just pray for these two girls, and for their families as well. For whatever reasons these incidents happened, let us hope for healing, peace and awareness to come to our hearts and communities. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Respect or Trust

Which would you rather have people give you, their respect or their trust?

The following may or may not be true but they’re just my two cent's worth. These could just be mindless rambling of a sleep-deprived girl on a Milo-overdose.

You can respect someone by virtue of their position, stature or authority. You might not agree with him all the time nor respect his values for example, but you have to at least respect his superiority over you somewhat. Then there is the kind of respect that’s earned, that’s a result not only of one’s position but also as product of his character and values. That’s good.

But for me, trust goes deeper than respect or admiration. It connotes some kind of dependency. There’s a sense of confident reliance on this person, as if you could fall with your eyes closed and he’d catch you, no questions asked.  You might respect someone’s opinions, views and decision for their sheer rationality and sense, but you may or may not follow them. But when you trust someone’s word, there’s some sort of expectation that you would believe him, follow him through because, heck, you trust him with your secrets and life!

Both should be earned. They can't be bought, bribed, sweet-talked, borrowed, threatened nor traded in. Both take time to build, though I believe trust takes longer. But who am I to talk; I trust people at the drop of a hat. But once this trust is broken, it takes me for-e-ver to give it back, especially if say, the person or persons involved don’t do anything to try to earn back what was lost. I like to think that if you have both the respect and trust of others, then you have credibility. And that’s a huge and awesome thing to have. 

*photo lifted from savagechickens.com. No copyright infringement intended.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Am Loved

I had the privilege of leading our Victory Group session earlier today. And praise God our little group is complete, despite each of our own hectic skeds, travels and chores at home. We usually have our Bible study at Kaphe, a quirky coffee shop right at the SEARCA Dorm lobby. Their Genmaicha, Lemongrass iced tea and homemade Oreos are Sunday faves.

So glad to be reminded of God's love, and blessed by my group mates' sharing of how His love is evident in their lives as well.

"...The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." ~Exodus 34:6-7 

Indeed God is compassionate and gracious. He is merciful. He is God - high and mighty - yet stoops down on us inferior humans to extend grace and favor. Like a father who disciplines the children He loves, yet still provides a way for us to be redeemed - through His son Jesus. The verse mentions "wickedness, rebellion and sin" to show that there is no sin God is unable to forgive.

God is slow to anger. He is long suffering. He is ever patient with us, and I'm glad He is. Imagine if we have a short-fused God who gets irate at the tiniest mistake. Lagot tayo diyan!

God abounds in love and faithfulness. I remember a line from the song "One Thing Remains" (Jesus Culture) that stuck to me for days after first hearing it: "Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me." Imagine  if God's love is just adequate or "sakto lang." What would happen to us if God's love has a limit, if it is not unconditional, like how most of us love others? It is so abundant that while we were still sinners, He forgave us through Christ dying for our sins (Romans 5:8).

This knowledge of God's love doesn't give us license to sin, but rather gives us the confidence to repent and go back to Him each time we fall.

Now since we are loved so faithfully, unconditionally and abundantly, then we can strive to love others as well. We can forgive others because God first forgave us. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.

*Professional discipleship group materials available at victorylosbanos.org